Sun Belt Conference Futures, Win Totals | Action Analytics 2023 Betting Preview
Eakin Howard/Getty Images. Pictured: The Sun Belt logo on a pylon.
It's time to take a look at the Sun Belt!
Out of all the Group of Five conferences, the Fun Belt may be the only league to come away from conference realignment with better programs than it started with.
Prior to the 2022 season, the Belt managed to add four total programs, and three with real quality: Old Dominion, Marshall, Southern Miss and perennial FCS powerhouse James Madison.
This is adding to the solid programs already in the conference, namely Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State, Troy and South Alabama. In fact, Troy and South Alabama are two of our five highest-rated G5 programs this season.
The Fun Belt should truly live up to its name this season, as it's wide open. Six teams sit at 10-1 odds or shorter to win the conference, according to DraftKings, so make sure to pay attention to the second conference in the Southeast. There will be some great football.
Let's start this off with an Action Analytics favorite. If you followed our weekly analytics previews last season, you would've noticed we had a lot of love for the Jaguars.
That's because their Fun Belt brethren tend to rank toward the bottom of these metrics.
But let's not dwell on last year. Instead, let's turn to this season.
This Jaguars team is locked and loaded headed into 2023. You know the recipe by now: Strong returning production numbers and a weak schedule mean we always strongly consider hitting the over on a team's win total.
Diving into the Jags' schedule, they obviously start with a tough game against Tulane. But we have South Alabama favored in 10 games, with two essential toss-ups (Oklahoma State and Troy).
Unfortunately, I don't see a conference winner price I like enough to pull the trigger, so we will just be hitting the win total for now.
This is a tough one, as DraftKings has this at Over 8 with -165 juice. However, I really hate the juice on that bet. Instead, let's head over to BetMGM and grab over 8.5 at -110. While that eliminates the possibility of a push at eight wins, I love the Trojans this year.
What do they have? Well, the same combination as every other team we love to hit the over on: great returning production and weak strength of schedule.
Troy ranks 30th in returning production and 116th in strength of schedule.
Not only do the Trojans return a ton of talent on offense in general, but most importantly, they have a good returning starting quarterback. Gunnar Watson had an excellent season last year, with an 82.6 PFF grade, over 2,800 yards and 14 passing touchdowns.
This is great news for a team that had an elite defense last year but was a little underwhelming on the offensive side of the ball.
Two areas the Trojans definitely need to improve on are Offensive Points per Opportunity and Offensive Success Rate, where they ranked in the bottom 30. However, on defense, they finished in the top 50 in all Five Factors with the exception of Havoc.
Jon Sumrall led Troy to its best season in its Sun Belt history, and I'm betting on him to do it again.
I expect the offense to improve under the second year of Sumrall and offensive coordinator Joe Craddock. Look for Watson to start the season strong and end up in another Sun Belt Championship — and keep an eye out for Watson props.
I have to admit I don't love this bet, but our metrics make this a must bet. We have Southern Mississippi favored in five conference games:
- at Arkansas State (-11)
- vs. Texas State (-16)
- vs. Old Dominion (-15.5)
- at App State (-3)
- vs. Louisiana Monroe (-12)
All that to say, we just have to go with Southern Miss' over on conference wins because 3.5 is disrespectfully low.
While the Golden Eagles may not have the most exciting offense in the world, they actually have a good defense that ranked 12th nationally in Defensive Success Rate and 45th in Havoc.
If they can replicate that success — they have decent defensive TARP (42nd), so there's a reason to believe in continuity — then they will be in all of these games, as each opposing offense other than App State was abhorrent last year.
Those four ranked in the bottom 30 in Success Rate, and all but Louisiana Monroe ranked in the bottom 30 in Havoc Allowed.
I'm more than happy to take the Eagles here on the conference win total over with our projected wins.